Early on in the coronavirus pandemic, it became clear that certain people were more at risk for severe COVID-19 infection—as well as death—than others. In the last six months, in addition to “older adults” many groups of people have been added to the CDC‘s somewhat extensive list of “underlying medical conditions” who are at an increased risk of COVID. And, according to a study published by the CDC on Thursday—pregnant women fall into this category.
According to the New York Times, “pregnant women infected with the coronavirus are more likely to be hospitalized, admitted to an intensive care unit and put on a ventilator than are infected women who are not pregnant.”
More Than 31% of Pregnant Women Hospitalized
The report analyzed data from 8,207 pregnant women between ages 15 to 44, who were compared to 83,205 women in the same age bracket who were not pregnant, sampled from January 22 to June 7. It concluded that over 31 percent of the pregnant women were hospitalized, compared with about 6 percent of women who were not pregnant.
Additionally. pregnant women were more likely to be admitted to the I.C.U. (1.5 percent versus 0.9 percent) and to require mechanical ventilation (0.5 percent versus 0.3 percent).
This new information is contradictory to what has been maintained by the governmental health organization since the beginning of the pandemic—that the virus does not seem to “affect pregnant people differently than others.”
There May Be a Major Flaw
The NYT does point out that the study may have a major flaw: it isn’t clear whether the pregnant women in the study were hospitalized as a result of labor or delivery. As a result, the numbers could be inflated, so the true impact of risk of hospitalization might not reflect accordingly.
Dr. Neel Shah, an assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Harvard University, tells the outlet that admissions for childbirth represent 25 percent of all hospitalizations in the United States, counting mother and baby. And, even during early pregnancy, doctors are overly cautious when treating pregnant women.
“There’s quite clearly a different threshold for hospitalizing pregnant people and nonpregnant people,” he said. “The question is whether it also reflects something about their illness, and that’s something we don’t really know,” explained Dr. Shah.
The CDC’s study isn’t the only research supporting that pregnant women might face more of a coronavirus risk. An alternate analysis by Covid-Net determined that of women hospitalized with the coronavirus, “the risk of I.C.U. and mechanical ventilation was lower among pregnant compared to nonpregnant women.”
On Thursday the CDC updated their recommendations. “Based on what we know at this time, pregnant people might be at an increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19 compared to non-pregnant people. Additionally, there may be an increased risk of adverse pregnancy outcomes, such as preterm birth, among pregnant people with COVID-19,” they wrote.
They also offer the following cautionary “actions to take.”
- Do not skip your prenatal care appointments.
- Make sure that you have at least a 30-day supply of your medicines.
- Talk to your healthcare provider about how to stay healthy and take care of yourself during the COVID-19 pandemic.
- If you don’t have a healthcare provider, contact your nearest community health center or health department.
- Call your healthcare provider if you have any questions related to your health.
- Seek care immediately if you have a medical emergency.
- You may feel increased stress during this pandemic. Fear and anxiety can be overwhelming and cause strong emotions. Learn about stress and coping.
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